The National Thoroughbred Racing Association will shift its advertising strategy this summer to target sports fans who wager on horse racing about twice a year. To that end, it will rely heavily on ads that will appear on ESPN network channels.
In addition, the Breeders' Cup championship will be "repositioned" to give it greater public awareness, NTRA commissioner Tim Smith said.
The advertising campaign on ESPN will be orchestrated by the Atlanta, Ga.-based advertising firm BaylessCronin, which has a long history with ESPN. Jerry Cronin, the firm's creative director, developed the brand strategy for ESPN. The campaign, which will begin in August, will have a light and humorous "SportsCenter" style designed to augment the NTRA's existing cooperative advertising program.
"It has the implications of generally making horse racing more popular," Tim Bayless, chief executive officer of BaylessCronin, said during the March 12 opening session of the NTRA "Marketing Summit" in Las Vegas, Nev. "No doubt the people who watch ESPN are the people you want to talk to."
Rob Fox, senior account manager for the ESPN Sports Poll, produced research that indicated "light users," or those who wager on horse racing about twice a year, are on the increase. From 1999 to 2000, the percentage of light users rose 7.8%. There are 19.5 million such people ages 18 and older, Fox said.
As for the Breeders' Cup, Smith said "our Super Bowl, our post season, really doesn't exist yet. The solution will involve a repositioning and rebranding of the Breeders' Cup." That was first hinted at last December at the University of Arizona Symposium on Racing. Smith said a plan is in the works to tie Breeders' Cup in with the new NTRA advertising focus on ESPN.
When asked if one of the changes would be a name change for the championship, he said: "Stay tuned. What we're looking at is a gradual change in the positioning of the event. That could mean there will be supplemental brands to better explain what the Breeders' Cup is."